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What are the secrets to creating happy and healthy relationships?

While on the outside it looks like some couples have the secrets to a happy relationship, the truth is they just found better ways of dealing with the problems that cross their path compared to the ones who seem to fight all the time. Of course, it takes a lot of knowledge, patience and understanding to create a happy and fulfilling relationship, especially for those who grew up in an environment where they did not see an example of a loving relationship. However, there are some keys that if practiced by both partners, can lead to a happier and more fulfilling relationship. Let’s see what are some of them:

Getting to know each other’s needs

Getting to know each other’s needs and respecting those needs is fundamental in a relationship. Each one of us has a love language in regard to what actions make them feel really loved. Some people are more sensitive to gifts and actions, some to physical touch, others to time spent together while some respond to encouraging words. There might be some who value when their independence in the relationship is respected, or when they are genuinely understood. Gary Chapman wrote The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, a book that outlines five ways to express and experience love that Chapman calls “love languages”: receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service (devotion), and physical touch. According to this theory, each person has one primary and one secondary love language.

Many people are used to showing love the way they love receiving it, which can make them feel like they are never doing enough to please their partner. By learning your partner’s primary need and showing your love the way they want to receive it, you help them understand they are not only loved, but accepted for whom they really are and that their needs are important to you.

Repairing what needs to be fixed

People in successful relationship focus on solving the conflict in a wise yet timely manner, while focusing on the partner’s needs. This means having transparency in regard to the issues that arise, and solving them quickly.

It’s important to know there are a lot of unsolvable problems in relationships. Actually, according to Marriage and Family counselor Dr. John Gottman, 69% of marriage conflicts are never solved. Yep!

So how do happy couples fight? They just find healthy ways in reducing these conflicts as much as possible. If the goal is to be happy and peaceful together, it’s important to choose your battles wisely and know which ones to let go. For the conflicts that can be solved, however, compromise is the key.

Reciprocity

Having the shared goal of creating a happy relationship where both partners feel equally important takes two. Unfortunately, this is the one key you cannot apply by yourself. It takes two to tango, and to create a happy relationship as well. Highly functioning couples take turns in reminding each other the promises they made and work together in putting the other first. This unselfish way of treating a relationship creates a place for everyone’s needs to be taken care of: If I am putting you first, and you are putting me first, then we know everyone’s needs are taken care of, leaving no space for selfishness.

Communication

We all know communication is key in relationships, but what if we don’t know how to communicate?

Of course, not everyone might know how to communicate wisely and be comfortable sharing their feelings, especially to their loved one. Fear of conflict, judgment and being misunderstood might stop people from sharing their dissatisfactions towards their partners. By creating a safe space where both partners know they are listened to and where their feeling are taken seriously, people can overcome their fears and share their honest frustrations.

What’s important to know here is that miscommunication starts when instead of trying to solve the problems, partners come off as attacking. An effective communicator knows how to separate the person from the issue (or behavior), and be soft on the person and firm on the issue. An ineffective communicator will do the opposite – he or she will literally “get personal” by attacking the person, while minimizing or ignoring the issue. When partners learn how to communicate by saying “what you did made me feel unimportant” instead of “you are so selfish for not listening to me”, they are able to focus on the issue rather than just making their partner feel guilty. Attacking the partner will not end the fight, but will put them in a vulnerable position where they will have to defend themselves from the blames. Needless to say this will not solve the conflict, but it will create further problems in the relationship.

Learning about both yours and your partner’s attachment style

For those who are not familiar, I wrote here about attachment style and how to relate to them. An attachment pattern is the way we get attached to someone in an intimate relationship, or, even more specific, the way we act when we start feeling close or intimate in a romantic relationship. Respecting our partner’s attachment style and acting towards their needs is a huge step to overcome relationship challenges. Knowing when to provide space to an avoidant partner or reassurance to an anxious one can make or break a relationship.

Fight better, not less

Conflicts can never be avoided, so we know that they will arise even in the happiest relationships. This is why the focus shifts from fighting less, to fighting better. Fighting better is about having discussions, not arguments. It is about trying to hear your partner’s needs and discussing about it until you both reach a shared vision on how things might work for both of you, on what’s doable and what’s not.

However, there will be days when you’ll not fight as smart as you want to, and that’s okay. Maybe you’ll sometimes go to sleep angry, and that will feel wrong. Accepting there can be tough times in a relationship when you might not agree on anything and knowing you’ll eventually come back to each other after the storm passes is one big lesson long-term couples learn on their journey together. No one can do these perfectly all the time, and most relationships have issues in some dimensions.

 

 

 

 

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